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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP Inaction Gives Dems Wedge on National Security

Guy T Saperstein, a past president of the Sierra Club Foundation, sees a potent wedge issue for Dems opening up in the void left by Republican inaction on key safety and security concerns. Saperstein’s just-posted Alternet article “Fighting the War on Terror: Democratic Opportunity, Republican Illusion” redefines the challenge facing Democrats and rolls out a credible action agenda.
Saperstein backs his case with a generous serving of poll data underscoring the Democratic opportunity, but also warning that Dems have thus far failed to claim ownership of an issue that is almost being handed to them. Saperstein notes for example:

When asked to rank the importance of issues, Iraq ranks first, with a mean ranking of 8.1 on a 10-point scale, but Protecting America from Terrorism is a close second at 7.9 — ahead of education, healthcare, taxes and the budget, and far ahead of global warming.
When asked if Democrats have given too much or too little attention to various issues, 30 percent of voters say the Democrats have given Iraq “too much attention,” and 37 percent say “too little attention.” But when asked about “protecting America from terrorism by strengthening our homeland security,” 9 percent of voters say Democrats have paid “too much attention,” while 51 percent say “too little attention.”

Saperstein cites a rather frightening litany of inaction on the part of the Administration, including, for example:

Cargo containers have been described as the most effective nuclear weapon delivery system ever invented, but almost six years after 9/11, only 5 percent of the nine million cargo containers that enter American ports each year are screened. One-hundred percent of containers could and should be screened, as the 9/11 Commission Public Discourse Project recommended. Instead, the Bush administration created a Byzantine classification system of cargo containers that label a small percentage as “elevated risk.” They screen these, put out a press release, and the rest go untouched.

Saperstein presents poll data showing overwhelming support for improving chemical facility and cargo inspections, as well as nuclear plant and bio-hazard security, along with more funding for first responders. As Saperstein says, “74 percent of voters say they would be ‘more favorable’toward Democrats if they legislated these recommendations.”
Saperstein’s article was written before the latest attack in the U.K. But it’s evident that the Administration’s bragging about no post-9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. hasn’t done much to make Americans feel safer. Moreover, surveys indicate that the Dems message on genuine homeland security is resonating. We just need to bring it home, loud and clear.

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